Cindy Thomas attended her first Happiness Retreat one year ago when she came as a chaperone for three special needs children from Burkemont Baptist Church in Morganton.
It was an experience the children wished would never end.
“Our kids cried last year when they left,” Thomas said. “They have been excited about coming back since the day they left.”
Happiness Retreat is an annual camp sponsored by the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) that is designed for people of all ages with developmental disabilities.
The camp is like a mini Vacation Bible School and includes worship, Bible study, arts and crafts, and games. More than 800 campers and chaperones attended Happiness Retreat this year, spanning four three-day retreats at Caraway Conference Center in Asheboro and one three-day retreat at Truett Camp near Hayesville. Thomas said the campers love Happiness Retreat because it uniquely meets their needs.
Caraway photo by Tyler Brock
Nicky Saintsing from Rich Fork Baptist Church, Thomasville, plays a bell during a song.
“This camp is on their level and everybody here is just like them,” Thomas said. “If they say something out of character or they stand up and dance nobody thinks anything of it. They are accepted as they are.”
Thomas believes the most important part of the camp is the opportunity given to the campers to hear and respond to the gospel.
Two campers from Burkemont accepted Christ and were baptized shortly after returning home from last year’s retreat. Thomas said the camp experience was essential to their decisions for Christ.
Gospel not limited
Donnie Wiltshire, BSC consultant for special ministries, said there is no limitation to the power of the gospel, and for that reason evangelism is the primary purpose of Happiness Retreat.
“We believe that people with special needs can respond to Christ. We always present the gospel and we call people with special needs to respond to the gospel,” Wiltshire said. “We do not twist or pressure but we share the gospel in ways that they can understand.”
For more information, contact Donnie Wiltshire at [email protected].